Gov's office shifts statement on immigrant housing at Maxwell AFB

File Photo of Maxwell AFB (Source: WSFA 12 News)
File Photo of Maxwell AFB (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's office is shifting its statements regarding the housing of immigrant children at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery after earlier confirming the installation would be used.

The Associated Press earlier reported, citing Communications Director Jennifer Ardis, who said the governor's chief of staff got a call from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, late Wednesday afternoon confirming the plan. Now, Ardis says it's unclear which federal department contacted the governor's office, but was working to clarify that information.

Now, Bentley's office says it was notified that Maxwell is on a list of possible sites to hold the immigrants.

According to Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson in the Secretary of Defense's office, the space at Maxwell/Gunter Air Force Base was offered to Health and Human Services for use but it is up to the department to assess whether the children can be housed there.

The Secretary of Defense says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will have to first assess whether Maxwell meets its needs before any final decision is made.

Ardis says Governor Bentley and five other governors joined in sending a letter to President Obama Tuesday expressing concern that the immigrant children will end up using public resources funded by the state, something the federal government says will not happen.

[DOCUMENT: Letter to President Obama from governors (.pdf)]

Alabama Representatives Mike Rogers and Martha Roby have also sent letters to the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services specific to Maxwell Air Force Base.
The two issued a statement Thursday saying there are no cirumstances in which immigrants should be held at Maxwell or any military base.

The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice issued a statement on the possibility of Maxwell housing the children saying, "In times of hardship, we Alabamians often turn to faith and family for a solution...Now, more than ever, these children need love, support, and stability while they await reunification with their relatives. We are confident that the people of Alabama would welcome them with open arms, and treat these children as we would our own."

The ACIJ said it wants assurances that the children are properly cared for "while the administration acts as quickly as possible to reunite them with any U.S. based-relatives."

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved. The Associated Press Contributed to the Story.